The Honorable Grete Faremo,
Royal Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police
Postboks 8005 Dep,
I am very much terrified, frightened, worried and spending sleepless nights since I heard the news of the repatriation agreement that Norway have signed with the ethno-fascist regime of Meles Zenawi. I and other Ethiopians were victims in Ethiopia because of our different political views and opinions…We are wondering…why Norway has decided to send forcibly to a country where we will face torture, imprisonment, abuses, violations and even death because of differing and opposing political opinions and views.
Received on March 1, 2012 at 10:59 P.M from Mr. Memeheru Melkamu, one of the many SMNE members in Norway.
Dear Honorable Minister Faremo,
Starting on March 15, 2012 and in the next months, hundreds of Ethiopians seeking asylum in Norway will be returned to Ethiopia, either by voluntary agreement that provides Norwegian funded “incentive funds” to returnees before they leave Norway as well as “reintegration funds” to be administered by the Administration of Refugee and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) once they return; or, by forced deportation to those who refuse. Most would refuse if they really had a choice; however, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, these asylum seekers failed to prove their case for needed protection and as a result, permanent residency in Norway was denied. (Click here to read the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Ethiopia and Norway.)
We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)i contend that these returnees will be at risk when they return. All will face loss of basic rights and freedom. All will be subject to targeted government monitoring at first. Some will likely encounter intimidation and harassment; and, still others will face human rights abuses, particularly if they refuse to join the official political party of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an ethnic-based political party of the Tigrayan Peoples’ Democratic Front (TPLF) that now controls Ethiopia. Some will be at greater risk for simply being part of the wrong ethnic group.
For those who do not know, before the TPLF took power in 1991, the U. S. State Department had classified this Marxist-Leninist organization as a terrorist group responsible for kidnappings and murders of foreign humanitarian workers. This party and its leader, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, continue in power twenty years later and now have gained control of every sector of society; including the federal government and all its ministries, the national treasury, the regional and local governments, the Parliament, the judiciary, the military, the media, the financial system and access to all aspects of the economy—including freedom to exploit all the nation’s assets. The regime continues to commit terroristic crimes against its own people with assurance of impunity. As tensions simmer beneath the surface towards this hated, dictatorial regime, its only option for survival is increasing repression.
In light of this, the SMNE believes the forced deportation of hundreds of asylum-seekers to Ethiopia is unconscionable and will tarnish the stellar reputation of Norway and Norwegians all over the world who have been long known to uphold the virtues of peace, justice and human rights for all people. The solution today must focus on Ethiopia rather than simply deporting its refugees—the outcome of its great dysfunction.
The SMNE, on behalf of these refugees and the justice-loving people of Ethiopia, asks the Government of Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Justice to re-examine their decision to return these asylum seekers to Ethiopia by first opening up an official investigation into the “Case of Ethiopia.” We contend that the current decision you have made is based on Norway’s acceptance of regime propaganda and their disingenuous promises. Such an Ethiopia does not exist; instead, the current Meles-controlled Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) is a brutal and repressive regime that has perpetrated widespread violence against its own citizens.
Human rights investigations have revealed the regime’s deep complicity in serial incidents of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, political imprisonment and other gross human rights atrocities—much of it associated with shoring up its power in order to continue to rob the people of their land, property, national resources, lives and futures. The culpability of the FDRE as a serial violator of international human rights law should be carefully considered before these Ethiopians are returned against their will.
Unfortunately, Ethiopian autocrat Meles Zenawi and his one-party apartheid regime have been given undue legitimacy, inclusion, support and impunity in Western democratic circles, including in Norway, despite being one of the most repressive and abusive regimes in all of Africa. The 2011 Legatum Prosperity Indexii showed Ethiopia to be the most “un-free” country among the 110 countries studied. Yet, most donor nations have turned a blind eye to the deteriorating conditions in the country, while still continuing to provide foreign aid.
Ethiopia is currently a partner in the War on Terror; however, they have exploited their strategic geo-political location to shore up their power and to manipulate the West.iii Ethiopians know this regime has a vested interest in inflating reports of terroristic threats or fomenting conflict in order to receive regime support and financial aid from the West. An eye-witness to an alleged attack of Christians by Muslims in late 2006 reported to our organization (SMNE) that the perpetrators were government supporters, one being a relative of the eyewitness, while the regime claimed these Muslims had been trained by radicals in Somalia. Their claims were used to help justify the invasion of Somalia and the Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia.
That invasion and the secrecy that shrouds what continues today in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, has become a horrendous genocideiv related to the exploitation of natural gas and oil reserves; yet, it has received little attention until recently when two journalists from Sweden,v who were attempting to report on it, were arrested, convicted and sentenced to eleven years in Ethiopian prison under a vague anti-terrorism law meant to criminalize dissent. In a recent statement co-released by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and African Rights Monitor (ARM)vi they report the completion of extensive research regarding the ongoing human rights violations in the Ogaden and in the neighboring Oromia region and found “a shocking lack of international attention directed at the situation in these regions.”
On February 12, 2012, pleas for international intervention came from residents of the region following a new wave of genocidal action where Ethiopian government forces opened fire on civilians, killing 16 people, including children. Some insiders report that a hundred more were taken by force to some unknown place where it is feared they would also be killed.vii On February 15, 2012 the Ogaden Somali Community of South Africa filed a complaintviii with the International Criminal Court, asking for an investigation. They provided 700 pages of documentation.
As the government clamps down on rights, the opposition of the people to their tight rule increases especially in areas where Ethiopians are being forcibly displaced under the misnomer of development. In a massive marketing effort by the regime, indigenous land is being leased to foreign and crony investors for negligible amounts, without any consultation with the people or compensation for their losses. Human Rights Watch released a report in January 2012ix “Waiting Here for Death: Forced Displacement and Villagization in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region” that revealed widespread cases of intimidation, assaults, rapes and violence directed towards any who resisted the forced displacement of 70,000 indigenous people from the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Plans are already made to move nearly 200,000 more people in the near future.
The people are promised increased access to services but find none. Instead, they have had to start all over on land that is less fertile and with less access to water, leaving behind crops right before harvest. Some have already died of hunger or exposure to harsh conditions. Produce is mostly destined for export in this food hungry country that will remain poor as long as this regime is in power.
A report just released by Survival Internationalxi regarding an investigation they recently completed in the Southern region of Ethiopia also speaks of “shocking violations of human rights against tribes” in the Omo Valley as the local people are forced to move in order to make way for new state-controlled sugar plantations. The same is happening in the regions of Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, Afar, Amhara, and other parts of Southern Nations.
The country you will be sending these asylum seekers back to is the one where the most courageous voices of freedom are called terrorists.xii Many flee the country rather than be jailed. Amnesty Internationalxiii reports that 100 journalists, opposition political leaders or activists have been jailed in the last year by using this anti-terrorism law,xiv many receiving long sentences. Eskinder Nega,xv a well known journalist, has been arrested more than six times by this regime. His wife has also been arrested and gave birth to their child in prison. He has now been arrested again, this time in front of that child, who was terrified by it. Eskinder is a hero of democracy but remains in prison on terrorism charges, along with many other political prisoners.
One of them, Andualem Aragie,xvi a popular spokesperson for the leading opposition political party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) was imprisoned on terrorism charges. Two weeks ago former Ethiopian president, Negasso Gidada, the president of the party, appealed to the international community regarding the brutal attack of Andualem in his prison cell by a convicted murderer, who had been intentionally moved to his cell by prison authorities with whom he had close connections. Andualem received a serious head injury that was affecting his balance, yet, medical treatment has still not been provided. Numbers of other political prisoners have reported being tortured. On February 2, 2012, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expressionxvii condemned the Anti-terrorism laws as a means to curb freedom of speech.
In a free society like Norway, such violations could be reported to authorities, the courts or monitored by civic institutions; however, in Ethiopia, all institutions are controlled by the regime. In 2009, foreign supported NGO’s who received more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources, most all of them, were effectively closed down with the Societies and Charities Proclamationxviii, which made it a criminal offense for them to advocate for such things as human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, rights for the disabled, promoting conflict resolution between ethnicities and religions and promoting the efficiency of justice and law enforcement services. Injustice has been given free rein in Ethiopia.
Poverty and oppression go hand-in-hand as Ethiopians remain among the poorest and least free in the world. According to a multi-dimensional poverty study, the 2010 Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI),xix Ethiopia is the second poorest country in the world, following Niger, with 90% of its population living under the poverty level despite Meles’ claims of alleviating poverty. Even though the Meles regime also claims double-digit economic growth, little of that growth is reaching the people.
A recent preliminary report released by the Task Force for Financial Integrity and Economic Development reveals some of the reasons. Their findings indicate that Ethiopia lost US $11.7 billion in illegal capital flight from 2000-2009 and illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia nearly doubled in 2009 to US $3.26 billion, double the amount in the two preceding years, with the vast majority of that increase coming from corruption, kickbacks and bribery.xx Yet, during 2009, Ethiopia was the third largest recipient of humanitarian aid in the world according to Global Humanitarian Assistancexxi, the England-based research group.
More alarming, Genocide Watchxxiiixxii reports that Ethiopia is among the countries most likely to become a failed state; with little hope that it will be resolved without violence and possibly genocide against the ethnic group in power. It remains a partner in the War on Terror; however, their information has been unreliable, slanted or contrived and has been used to shore up their power and to manipulate the West.
Authoritarian Regime This regime has a vested interest in inflating reports of terroristic threats or fomenting conflict in order to receive gain legitimacy as well as financial aid from the West. Read more…
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